Almost 30 years ago, a precious trove of art was spirited away from the National Museum of Afghanistan by a small group of “keyholders” —museum guards, curators, and antiquities lovers who risked their lives to save the country’s cultural treasures. Their actions spared these magnificent pieces from the threat of destruction, first by the invading Soviets in 1979 and more recently by the Taliban. Exquisitely crafted in gold and ivory, the artifacts illustrate Afghanistan’s key place at the crossroads of Europe, the Middle East, and Asia, at the center of the ancient Silk Road—a rich heritage to be displayed at four major U.S. museums through 2009. Crowning this headline-making exhibition is a famous hoard of Bactrian gold, considered to be one of the greatest archaeological discoveries of the 20th century.
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